When I was a little girl growing up, everything at Christmas was hand-made – the green frock my mum had happily sewed on her black and gold Singer sewing machine, the wooden cars fashioned by my dad at his workshop bench, the coconut ice, the chocolate fudge and the giant snow-white Christmas cake that emerged from the pantry. Of course, these days in our ‘buy, buy’ world we can pay ‘contactlessly’ for a beautiful dress at a boutique shop, one-click a shed load of toys that will arrive 'next day' and pop to the deli for all things nice and nibbly. But, for me, somehow, it's not the same. It's the effort behind the giving of these gifts that makes me remember how much love was put into those seasonal times of my childhood.
In fact, the notion of hand-made gifting is long associated with the countryside. For rural Victorians, the crafting of festive keepsakes was a way to pass wind-howling winter evenings. The planning, designing and execution of a monogrammed handkerchief, pretty pincushion or a rosebud-scented drawer sachet was a family custom enjoyed as much by the giver as the receiver. And, of course, preserved fruits, jams and jellies gathered and set-to-store in the summer months were an easy token that said, ‘I’m giving a bit of me…to you’.
Fast forward to the year 2016 and I don’t think this act of giving small things has changed that much for those of us who still believe in sentiment and warmhearted-ness. Living, as I do, in the Sussex landscape close to woodland and shoreline I am blessed to have nature’s bounty on hand to fashion glossy holly wreaths, and berry and teasel posies. Often done with the help of my two ‘crafty’ young boys, it is an opportunity to gather at the kitchen table and share some Christmas giggles. On top of this, I have my Christmas ideas notebook filled with gathered inspiration for thoughtful little presents that I hope to give to my nearest and dearest.